Fedweek

A Senate committee has taken the first of what would have to be many steps in Congress toward requiring federal employees to contribute more toward retirement benefits, which the Trump administration recently proposed once again in its budget plan.

The Senate Budget Committee listed “increasing federal employee retirement contributions” as among the assumptions for bringing in more revenue in a budget plan that will come up for consideration in the committee soon. The budget “resolution” being written is an early stage in the lengthy and complex process of producing an annual budget; it is supposed to serve as a blueprint for action by other committees to write policy and spending decisions into the later bills that actually fund the government.

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In recent years, the House counterpart committee, then under Republican control, has backed such increases repeatedly but those budget resolutions never came close to final approval; in many of those years the Senate did not even produce a counterpart but instead went straight to the step of writing appropriations bills. The new Senate plan therefore breaks with precedent, but the House is now under control of Democrats who oppose increasing contributions making acceptance there much less likely.

The Senate plan does not indicate how much the contributions would be raised if the intent were to be carried out. The White House plan would apply only to employees under FERS and require them to pay an additional 1 percentage point of salary until the government and employee shares of funding retirement are equal, a phase-in it projects would continue for eight years.

The Senate plan further does not specifically mention other federal retirement benefit cuts, either those in the Trump budget or others, although it does call for restricting spending on “mandatory” benefit programs in general.